Best of Both Worlds
In Italian Village, Cafe Del Mondo is a small eatery with a large reach
Tucked away on the city’s unofficial northbound freeway is a lunchtime eatery that exists due to inspiration from St. Maarten (the island) and encouragement from St. John the Baptist (the parish).
Cafe Del Mondo came to life when Father William Metzger asked the Brundige family, who are members at St. John’s, to move their Italian culinary distribution business from Grandview to an abandoned building on the edge of Italian Village that had recently been purchased by the church.
“We had every intention of doing the wholesale business out of here, with just a little coffee shop,” explains co-owner Bruna Brundige. But Metzger made it clear that he envisioned something more. “And here we are, 10 years later. Full-blown everything.”
When Brundige says everything, she means everything. Cafe Del Mondo serves as a panini and espresso shop, a retail outlet selling olive oils and coffees, a host to twice-monthly community dinners, an event caterer and a corporate catering outfit that feeds people at offices such as Chase and Nationwide.
659 N. Fourth St. Italian Village
“We could probably be at three places at once,” Brundige says. “That’s often why we look a little scattered. People will ask, ‘Where’s the fire?’ but they don’t know that we fed 400 people out the back door or offsite.”
Some of those 400 people include the Columbus Crew, who are fed Italian fare weekly at their Obetz training center. When it comes to the Crew, Brundige plays favorites. Hers? “Tony Tchani,” she declares. “He gets the He Man (a turkey-and-bacon panini). They all eat the He Man.”
Brundige, who clocked 20 years with Limited Brands before heading to the food business, has a habit of not being boxed into one role. At Limited, she was a fit model, an administrative assistant and a vice president. As for her role today, Brundige pauses. “Here’s what I don’t do: Literally, I don’t cook. I do not cook. Everything else, I do.”
According to her son Alex, Brundige can take credit for both the brand and the transformation of the building into a warm and inviting gathering place.
“We’ve touched every inch of this building. A lot of this is based on our travels [to St. Maarten],” she says. That island is home to two Italian restaurants: One inspired Cafe Del Mondo’s color scheme, the other motivated the style of customer service.
“We go to this little tiny place—it’s much smaller than this—and [the owner is] out there talking to everybody. We were inspired by the feel of it.” In St. Maarten, she adds, “they always start small and get bigger. As opposed to here, where you go build a mausoleum and try to find customers to fill it. I try to fill [this space] and expand as I get more customers.”
Brundige particularly enjoys the cafe’s diverse customer demographics. “I can have a federal judge sitting next to a young musician, sitting next to a Crew player, next to the construction guys.” t